WHOIS On First?
Right now, anyone can look up the real name of the owner of a website on the WHOIS database. You can see, for example, that this site is owned by the Reason Foundation (surprise!). This is a handy tool when people start behaving badly online, but also means that when Fido registers sexydaschunds.com, anyone who's interested can find out that he is, indeed, a dog.
Recently, this convention has been challenged by privacy advocates:
A panel on Internet names voted Wednesday to conduct further studies on the databases containing names, phone numbers and other private information on domain name owners, deferring long-simmering questions over whether such details should remain public.
The committee of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, which oversees Internet addresses, also rejected a proposal to give Internet users the ability to list third-party contacts rather than their own private data in the open, searchable databases called Whois.
So no decision yet. Should the ICANN offer true anonymity to domain owners? I'm torn. I don't think there's an absolute right to privacy here–you can choose not to own a domain, and simply lurk anonymously on other people's sites, thus protecting your privacy. As far as I know, Blogger doesn't require ID to start a blog, so the existing structure of the Internet is not really even throwing up serious barriers to those who would like to anonymously produce content. On the other hand, I like the idea that I might be in a flame war with a dog and have no way of knowing it and that dogs who are enemies of the state could build truly anonymous online empires. Your thoughts?